Thursday, October 21, 2010


My daughter turned one this week.  I know it's cliche, but I can't believe the time has flown so quickly (I can hear my dad saying the same thing about me!).  It seems like a breath ago she was a lumpy bundle of goodness who loved to sleep on my chest.  Now, she's not content to be held but rather, with legs pumping and arms flapping, insists in her non-verbal way that I put her down and set her free.  Free to roam, she scoots the whole length of the house (no, she's not crawling or walking yet either) and does adorable things that make my heart melt.  Today, in a move that is decidedly "toddler-hood right around the corner", she picked up a calculator, held it to her ear like a phone, and looked at me expectantly.  I spoke: "ring, ring, hello Lily."  My reward?  Bright-eyed, toothy grin.  Sigh.

I have been reminiscing a lot this week, remembering where we were as a family exactly one year ago.  I remember going to the hospital the day before she was born only to be told "you're not in labor" and to go home disappointed.  I remember returning exactly fourteen hours later, after laboring at home in my sleep (thank God!  for all you pregnant women out there, take a Benadryl if you think the time's'll never get that much sleep again!).  I remember excruciating pain, wholly unlike the pain I felt with my first labor, as my friend and her daughter rushed me to the hospital where my husband waited.  I remember back labor, vomiting, and making the difficult decision to get an epidural (my first birth was completely natural).  I remember loving that decision after it was made and texting while I awaited Lily's descent.  I remember feeling everything, even though I was numb, and wondering at how I could still engage the process while accepting the additional help of pain relief.  Grace personified in my person. 

I remember feeling excited to meet her, the sweet anticipation of mother-hood.  I remember working with labor, not against it, in an amazing act of co-creation that is too beautiful to write about.  I remember a four hour active labor.  I remember the air conditioning failing in my room at Seton Hospital.  I remember doctors and nurses sweating.  I remember it felt like poetic justice.  I remember my husband holding my hand and telling me he was proud of me.  I remember her first cry - even then it seemed gentler than her brother's.  I remember how her brother loved her from the very first moment and, even today, how he still insists on hugging and kissing her "night night" before she goes to bed.

I remember that she felt gentle and calm from the very first touch.  Her brother felt strong, like he could carry a lot.  Lily felt grace-filled, like the love in her would move forth from her like a river, caressing those that step into it with a slow, steady movement that will change them the longer they experience it.  Deep, still, beautiful.

I remember the women who visited me in the hospital, sat with me, held Lily when I couldn't due to my fainting spells.  I remember a much easier, faster recovery the second time around.  I remember "there's no rest for the weary" with a sweet, then twenty-month-old wanting his mommy.  I remember an unknown neighbor, now a friend, bringing me homemade soup to welcome us to the neighborhood and congratulate us on the new baby.  I remember Lily sleeping at six hour stretches from day one.  I remember feeling complete, finished, as if Lily were the missing piece and she was now at home in our family.  

I remember loving her more than I ever thought possible, just as I had felt when Gunnar was born.  I remember knowing that she was a gift.  I remember experiencing, even before she was born, that I was already learning from her in a way that would change me forever.  I remember fearing that change, accepting it, and, later, praising God for it.

I remember thanksgiving.

I remember joy.

I remember.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jumble Gym

I am jumbled up today.
I am feeling many ways.
I cannot untwist this mat.
My feet are straight;
My arms are flat.
I do not know which way to turn.
I love to listen,
Seek to burn
A tired message in my head
Aound and round, its play is dead.
The needle is so old it's worn.
I cannot hear the truth it scorns.
I love to listen;
I'm loathe to speak.
I need the source;
That's all I seek.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I have the best friends...

This blog is my sweet friend's fault.  Her name is Jen Ferguson, and we've been friends for about fifteen years.  She started a blog last summer and encouraged me to start this one.  She also encourages me as a mother, wife, writer.  You name it, and she's helping me walk my path.  I love my dear friend and am very thankful for her.

Today, she sent me a gift.  An award, actually.  She awarded me a Lovely Blog Award, which she received from another blogger.  I think this one of the highest forms of praise: accommodation from those "in the field" trying to slug it out daily like I am.  They know from whence they come, so their praise means all the more.

Here's the award:

Part of accepting it is a call to "pay it forward" to 15 new blogs you enjoy.  I'm still fairly new to the blogging world, so I can't list 15 blogs yet!  But, here's a list that inspire me in one way or another.  Enjoy (and feel free to suggest blogs to me...I'm interested in reading witty blogs about politics, writing, and motherhood):

1.  Finding Heaven.  Jen's blog about finding God in the daily.

2.  Fullness of a Joyful Heart.  A blog about motherhood. 

3.  Farmama.  A blog about sustainable living.  I wish I was cool enough to live like this.

To Hell With You

"Devil, you can go to hell!"

That was my seminal moment this morning: yelling that phrase at the top of my lungs while racing home before picking up the kids from school. 

My word choice made me laugh out loud.  What prompted such an outburst? 

I had called a fellow writer friend for some encouragement.  Today is my first day to truly focus on my writing career (I plan to use the time when the kids are in school to write and pursue publishing).  I had just finished several hours staring at a blank screen, during which time I managed to eek out one measly outline for my new book.  No, not even an outline - a draft of an outline.  All sorts of negative thoughts were running through my head.  I felt exhausted, fried, and generally discouraged.  So, I called this friend to check in and see if he could give me some pointers.  Also, I just wanted to speak to someone who's been there.

He was incredibly helpful and encouraging.  I felt better almost instantly.  But every time we started to dig a little deeper into some nitty-gritty advice, my phone would drop the call.  This happened five times before I finally gave up and yelled: "D--"  Well, you get the idea.

Though the outburst was a bit silly, it was also heartfelt.  I needed that encouragement as much as a two-year-old boy needs a bath.  And I was in the process of getting that need met when something kept cutting the source off.  I was angry, righteously so.  My anger rekindled my energy, so here I am telling you all about it. 

The point?  I'm writing, which is exactly what I'm meant to do.  Negative thoughts be damned.  And devil, well, you know exactly where to go.  Best be on your way, dear heart, because I'm not listening any more.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And the journey continues...

The second post in a series about being a newbie stay-at-home mom.

This is my first official day on the job.  For those of you read my last post, you know that I quit my job and wrapped things up last week.  Today, Monday, it's all-Mom, all-the-time.  Several of you have checked in to ask how it's going.  So I decided to post this update.  Here it is: the raw, unadulterated truth about living the dream life.

The day started with anxiety.  Again.  More dreams about not doing enough, not producing enough.  These dreams happened to be about my physical therapy workouts, but they echoed the theme from last week: not enough.  So much for the short-lived bliss from the day I left the office.  Now, during my first morning, I was struggling to hold my temper with my two-year-old, snapping at my husband in the process, and generally feeling overwhelmed at what to do next and how to do it. 

The breakfast routine started with physical therapy for my littlest one (she's dealing with a gross motor skills developmental delay), which completely stressed me out.  Lily screamed through her workout in general frustration at not being able to move the way she wants.  All the while Gunnar, her big brother, wanted to take her therapy toy and interrupt play with some play of his own.  Of course, these interruptions increased Lily's frustration which increased the screaming which decreased Mommy's patience threshold.  I thought to myself: I will pray a lot more now that I'm home full-time.

That was the first fifteen minutes.

After my husband helped me calm down, I corralled the kiddos for a trip to the gym.  Yes, that's right.  I had been on-the-clock for a whole hour before seeking refuge in the sanctum of Kids Club.  Don't judge me until you've stared down a one and two-year-old, thinking, "I'm supposed to entertain you for a full day?"  It's tougher than it sounds!

Kids Club was a success.  Both kids had fun and lasted the full hour-and-a-half.  I, meanwhile, was able to finish my morning pages* in the sauna (talk about multi-tasking), get in a long swim workout, and actually take a shower.  By myself.  In silence.

I finished a little early and decided to veg out for a few minutes.  Several minutes later, after flipping through a magazine I indulged in at the grocery store, I gathered my things and headed to Kids Club.  I glanced at the clock.  "Oh no.  How did I let twenty minutes go by?  I'm a horrible....  No, wait a minute, I am not a horrible mom.  I gave myself twenty minutes - twenty minutes.  Get over yourself.  You'll need a lot more than that if you're going to do this well.  And besides, your kids probably need the time away from you as much as you need non-productive down time."

All of this self-talk whizzed through my head on the short walk from locker room to Kids Club.  Self-talk happens a lot in my brain (I know - you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?).  In fact, hours later, it's still happening.  I'm quite sure the loving me hasn't won the back-and-forth with the harsh me yet.  I still feel guilty over that twenty minutes.

Anyway, we decided to treat ourselves after the gym.  Actually, I needed some carb's after my long swim, and I wanted to be able to give my kids a little focused attention.  We went to Einstein's and sat together.  No agenda, no timeline, just snacks and catching up.  I heard all about Gunnar's adventures at Kids Club and watched in fascination while Lily realized she could put her food inside Gunnar's empty milk bottle.  I was very impressed, as was she.  She squealed in delight every few minutes when another bite actually made it into the container.

When Lily began rubbing her eyes we headed home.  She fell asleep in the car and stayed asleep through the transfer.  Another opportunity to pour into Gunnar was presenting itself: I decided to keep him outside so that Lily could sleep in peace.  After pretending to wash his Gunnar-sized car, he decided we should wash Mommy's car.  I told him we didn't even have to pretend.  I mean, what's better than playing and getting stuff done at the same time.  I'm brilliant, I tell you!

Out came the buckets, brushes, and hose.  Everything went swimmingly for the first several minutes.  And then, I looked over to see a shivering two-year-old dripping wet and exclaiming that he needed to go potty.  "Okay," I said.  "Here I come, honey."  I ran over, pulled down his pants, and told him to pee in the yard (yes, the front yard).  I ran inside to get a towel only to hear a panicked "MOMMY!" come out of Gunnar's little mouth.  Racing back outside I screamed, "what's wrong?"  "I pooped," he calmly replied.



I ran over, checked out the scene, and asked if he was done.  "Yes, I'm done.  I need you to wipe me."  "Okay," I replied.  "Wait here and don't move.  I'll be right back with toilet paper."  Asking a two-year-old not to move is like asking the Titanic not to sink.  What was I thinking?

I came back outside only to find Gunnar rooted to the same spot - a miracle, I thought - but with a rather disconcerting look on his face.  He was clearly concentrating very hard.  And squeezing, holding something tightly.  But what?

"Mommy, my poop is waiting for you."  Huh?  I looked behind him to see one large log on the ground and another long and skinny one holding on for dear life between clenched cheeks. 

Yes, it took all I had not to laugh.

I won't go into the gritty clean-up details, but, needless to say, they involved a hose.  Fifteen minutes and several hand-washings later we all sat down for lunch together.  I called my husband to tell him about our little poop adventure.  He laughed as hard as I wanted to.

Deep breath.  Post-lunch signaled time for round two of Lily's physical therapy at-home workout.  I geared myself up for another melt-down.  It's a wonder how things don't always turn out the way you plan, and thank God for that.  It was perfect.

I calmly explained to Gunnar how he needed to help Lily, and he happily obliged.  I arranged the "workout" in such a way that they were playing together.  We even had an object lesson: when either child achieved a goal, however small, I taught them to clap for eachother because, as I explained, "in this family, we celebrate one another's accomplishments."  It was beautiful.  Truly, I say this without sarcasm.  I was having a great time and loved, absolutely loved, being able to be the one who gets to do this with these two precious children. 

So two poo-poo's, two physical therapy sessions, and one gym trip later, I'm wondering what made the difference between morning and midday?  Why did the second session go so much better?  I think it's a combination of factors, really. 

First, Mommy was calmer.  That always helps.  Second, both of my children had had their cups filled with concentrated Mommy-attention.  Third, and probably most important, I chose myself this morning.  Not because I didn't want to be with my children, but rather because I did.  I knew that I needed to get a little space to clear my head before I dove into our new routine, so I took it.  And that extra twenty minutes clearly has made all the difference.

*Morning Pages are a medicine prescribed by Julia Watts, author of The Artist's Way.  I highly recommend her book to everyone, artist or not.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

New Season

The first in a series of musings from a newly-minted stay-at-home mom.

I quit my job yesterday. 

Actually, I quit my job two months, fourteen days, twenty-one hours and eight minutes ago.  I gave my boss such a long notice for two reasons: (1) to give her as much time as possible to make a transtitional plan; and (2) to give my husband and me as much time as possible to plan for our own transition.  You know, the oh-my-gosh-is-this-really-happening-can-we-make-it-work-I'm-so-excited-I-get-to-actually-be-a-stay-at-home-mom transition.

So, here I am, a newly-minted stay-at-home mom.  Now what?

Yesterday I was ecstatic.  I literally did a little dance when I got home (after putting the kids down of course).  The soundtrack in my head went something like this: "I'm so excited.  I'm so happy.  I'm so excited.  I'm so happy."  I had a goofy smile pasted on my face all day, even when my two-year-old threw a temper tantrum and my one-year-old couldn't nap through her teething pain.  My happiness was impenetrable.  I was living the dream.

And then, as it so often does, reality hit me like a baseball bat to the forehead.  I woke up today to anxiety dreams.  Anxiety dreams about a job I no longer have.  The lists of things to finish were racing through my subconscious head, spilling over into my conscious self as I opened my eyes in the dark.  Worry and fear began to choke the elation out of me.  I couldn't breathe.  What had I done?  I need that job.  I don't exist without it.  I need the stress to feel purpose.  I can't actually be happy, actually get what I want, actually just be - living in the moment and enjoying every minute.  My dreams don't get fulfilled; it doesn't work like that.  I have to work harder or I don't matter.  It is never enough.

I learned this way of thinking at my mother's knee.  Though she would whole-heartedly disagree with that statement, I believe it to be true.  She lives a martyr's life and subconsciously expects me to do the same.  You do what you have to, not what you want to, pretending that the should is the want, deluding yourself into a false sense of happiness.  If you're not worried, stressed, or overwhelmed then you're not really living.  You clearly aren't doing enough if you actually have space to enjoy, simply enjoy, what's happening around you. 

There is no time for living in that version of life.  No, that version involves racing forward at the speed of light moving so fast that you have no light by which to see at all.

I have to unlearn one way of living in order to live out of my heart.  It's not about her; she is not the enemy.  I am.  She did the best she could and taught me what she knew.  This is about me.  About me learning how to be me.  And refusing to give my life over to others.  Refusing to be the victim any longer.

I want to live a simpler life.  I want to cherish every moment with my children, not hear about them from their caregivers after an exhausting day in the rat race.  I want to lie on my back, watch the wind through the trees, take a deep breath, and pay attention to the feel of my son's hand in mine.  Without the noise that has lived inside my head for the past eleven years in the work world.  Without the constant fear that I'm not doing enough.  Without putting them on hold so that I can answer one more email, make one more phone call.

I want to make my life about what I want it to be about, listening to my deepest desires and choosing to make them important enough to fulfill.  Martyrdom be damned.  Being a martyr is self-indulgent bullshit.  It's not real love.  I know that love is sacrificial but you must first have a self to sacrifice.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  You can not love without self.

I quit my job yesterday.  I left behind one life to pursue another.  I have started a journey.  My journey.  For the first time in my life, I am doing exactly what I want to do and not what I think others expect of me.  It feels good.  It feels right.  And when I can get still enough to silence the anxious thoughts, it feels peaceful, hopeful, true.